Lonely Planet Writer

Landmark art gallery opens on Vancouver’s North Shore

Vancouver visitors have an eye-catching new art space to check out following the  opening of the Polygon Gallery on the area’s North Shore waterfront. Overlooking Burrard Inlet and downtown’s tower-studded skyline, the steel-clad, sawtooth-roof landmark had been the dream of local art fans for decades.

Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery Image by Ema Peter Photography

The two-storey, 25,000 square-foot space replaces the crumbling Presentation House Gallery that had operated nearby since 1976. But while the new building’s white-walled rooms and soaring ceilings are a breath of fresh air, not everything has changed. The Polygon is retaining the contemporary photography focus that made its previous incarnation one of Western Canada’s most important photo-based cultural institutions. But with a display area now five times larger, it can also give sizeable installations and local First Nations works far greater exposure.

The Polygon, Vancouver. Image by Ema Peter Photography

“I like to remind everybody that the [previous] gallery was never entirely slavish to the mandate of photography,” Polygon director and curator Reid Shier explained to the local Georgia Straight newspaper. The Polygon’s opening exhibition – one of several it aims to host in year one – is entitled N. Vancouver. Exploring the evolution of a North Vancouver area that was once a gritty shipyard district, the multi-artist show features works by renowned photographers as well as challenging installations and intricate First Nations woven artworks.

The interior of Vancouver’s newest art gallery. Image by Ema Peter Photography

One of the show’s most intriguing exhibits sits in the lobby. At first glance, the wood-built Myfanwy MacLeod piece is a scale model of the celebrated ship that Captain George Vancouver sailed into the region in the late 1700s. But the all-black replica represents a later part of its history – as a permanently-moored prison vessel in London.

While crowds flocked to the new gallery for its mid-November opening, many also stayed to explore a North Vancouver waterfront that’s changed dramatically in recent years. Now home to hotels, restaurants and indoor markets, it’s Polygon-fueled cultural hub credentials will be further cemented next year when the new North Vancouver Museum & Archives building opens across the street.

By John Lee